Whittall should have apologised: Unions

Unions have slammed the chief executive of Pike River Coal, saying Peter Whittall should have apologised for the tragedy and that he still may be culpable for the deaths of the 29 men killed in the mine.

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Unions have slammed the chief executive of Pike River Coal, saying Peter Whittall should have apologised for the tragedy and that he still may be culpable for the deaths of the 29 men killed in the mine.

They say he is no hero and he should be held accountable for the tragedy at the site on the south island of New Zealand .

‘He’s now been called a national hero, but he’s the CEO of that company and he hasn’t apologised,” Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told the Canterbury Workers Educational Association at a function in Christchurch on Friday.

"Even if the company did everything right, if it was me, I’d say: `I’m the employer. This has happened and I’m really sorry. I don’t know why, but I’m going to find out why’. But he hasn’t said that,” Kelly told the audience.

She went on to say the mine should face more questions about the explosions and criticised the lack of responsibility that has been placed on the CEO.

"This is a very serious event. That mine was open for just over a year. There are 29 miners dead. We’ve got to be more mature about who we honour, how we think about things, what we demand. If that had been public Department of Conservation [land] we would have gone after them and said what had happened.

"But because it’s a company and because the CEO gets to sit next to the Prime Minister at the memorial service, the hard questions have not been asked."

However, Chairman of Pike River Coal, John Dow says Whittall and the company want answers just as much as everyone else and says they are preparing an inquiry using independent experts.

"His approach has been to answer all questions honestly as they have been asked," Dow said. "His objective has been to get to the bottom of this and co-operate with the authorities."

Andrew Little, national; secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the blame cannot be totally on Whittall, as ir may have been mistakes by mine managers of “the guys underground” who caused the tragedy.

"We need to reserve judgment until we get credible answers to questions about why it all happened.

"The company has been treated as somewhat heroic and in a way I think it’s somewhat undeserving."

Whittall said he was not "interested in commenting on what other people think of me".

"It hasn’t been about me," he said.

There are several inquiries underway into the Pike River Coal disaster, including a Royal Commission, but no answers will be found until it is safe to enter the mine.

 

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